Yesterday, the circuit court in DeLand granted summary judgment in favor of our client in a first-party case where sewage backed up into a residential condo.
Upon returning to his condo in New Smyrna after a week away, our client found that raw sewage from 7 other units had flooded his entire condo. Needless to say, it was a mess. The source of the back up was roots growing into and blocking a gravity fed sewage line which took the sewage from the building to the city’s main sewage line.
My client submitted the cost of cleanup and damage to his family’s personal property to his condo owner’s insurance carrier, Florida Family Insurance Company. Florida Family denied the claim based on what it claimed was a clear and unambiguous exclusion for sewage backups.
However, based on the language of the policy, I believed that the policy could be read to only exclude sewage backups which originate from a sump. As this was a gravity fed line, there was no sump involved. The court agreed, leaving one very happy condo owner.
Interestingly, upon reviewing the information which Florida Family had previously filed with the Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Rates and Forms, I found that the insurer’s policy was a standard ISO policy; however, the insurer had modified this particular part of the policy. By modifying the standard policy, the insurer actually created the ambiguity which led to the confusion. Had the insurance company not modified the standard ISO form, then this loss would have been excluded.